The Secaucus City Council is considering changing its laws regarding recreational cannabis establishments.
Currently, such facilities are banned in the city due to an ordinance the council passed in 2021. However, officials at the time said it was a placeholder ordinance that would ban any recreational cannabis establishment until the city could decide how it wanted to approach the industry.
After review, the council voted to introduce an ordinance that would allow recreational cannabis establishments in part of the city. The facilities would only be located on selected lots in parts of Secaucus’ Light Industrial Zone A.
Recreational cannabis in a light industrial area
In an interview with the Hudson ReporterCity Administrator Gary Jeffas outlined the essence of the changes proposed in the ordinance. Recreational cannabis establishments would be permitted in the light industrial zone, but must be more than 1,000 feet from any public or private educational facility. institution, daycare, public library or place of worship, in accordance with the proposed order.
“The ordinance will allow recreational sales in the light industrial area,” Jeffas said. “It’s limited to the area where Harmony currently exists. The council just limited it to a small section to ensure there is nothing in the town center shopping areas, or near schools or churches.
While the light industrial area is rather large, the section in which recreational cannabis establishments can exist would be small. The aforementioned light industrial area currently already houses Harmony Dispensary, a medical dispensary that was among the first in the state, and otherwise consists of warehouses and other similar uses.
The ordinance would allow five-lot establishments, but would not cap the number of licenses, although the lot limit appears to serve that purpose.
“It will not be for the whole area, but confined to a small section on the outskirts of the light industrial area.
In terms of limits on types of uses ranging from retail, grower, or distributor, the ordinance would allow them all on one of the lots. This is similar to the license Harmony Dispensary has, Jeffas said, known as a “scale license” that allows everything from growing cannabis to selling the end product.
What is and is not allowed
However, on-site consumption would remain prohibited. Hours would be limited to 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., except on Saturdays when establishments would be allowed to stay open until 11 p.m.
Outdoor cultivation would be prohibited. All facilities would be required to implement noise and odor control. Security cameras should cover the entire space and be accessible to the Secaucus Police Department upon request.
A state-certified security guard would be required at all hours of operation. And according to the order, the facility would coordinate with Police Chief Dennis Miller or a designate regarding site security.
Additionally, the ordinance would form a Cannabis Control Board to review and approve applications from recreational cannabis establishments to operate in the city and would be appointed by the mayor and council for a three-year term. However, the first three appointments would be for one year, two years and three years respectively.
In addition to being approved by the Cannabis Control Board and licensed by the state, the establishment would have to pay a recurring annual fee of $2,500 to the city’s health department. The license could be revoked by the Department of Health for any violation of the proposed order, with penalties starting at $1,000 per violation.
The ordinance would also levy a 2% tax on all sales except those from cannabis wholesalers.
Harmony Dispensary open to recreational cannabis?
Since the Harmony Dispensary is part of this area, they could also seek to become not only a medical dispensary, but also a recreational facility.
This is in line with the recreational cannabis bill signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy in 2021. If Harmony Dispensary seeks to open up sales to include recreational cannabis, it could potentially be one of Hudson County’s first recreational cannabis establishments.
“The area that’s designated, and the other lots and blocks that you’re allowed to have, includes where Harmony currently exists,” Jeffas said. “They are already in this area, so if they opted for recreation, they would be allowed to do so in this area.”
And as far as Harmony pursuing this, Jeffas said there have been conversations in the past. These discussions will likely recur if council adopts the ordinance.
“They have indicated to the city that they would like to enter the recreational cannabis market as the state develops and works on its regulations. I guess they are of the same mindset.
Harmony Dispensary could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mayor Gonnelli on board
After the ordinance was introduced, Mayor Michael Gonnelli told the Hudson Reporter he was in favor of the ordinance because of the revenue it would bring to Secaucus.
“We booked a certain place where we already have cannabis,” Gonnelli said. “Here we have Harmony, the medical marijuana dispensary.”
Gonelli continued: “I voted for her for a reason. Financially, it’s going to bring a lot of money to our city, which is really important right now. And we already have a facility in the area.
Secaucus is one of at least four municipalities in Hudson County that have banned establishments, including Union City, Weehawken and Guttenberg. If it passes the ordinance, it will join Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, North Bergen and West New York in allowing some forms of recreational cannabis establishments.
The decree must be the subject of a public hearing and a vote at the next municipal council. The Secaucus City Council will meet on April 12 at 7 p.m. at City Hall at 1203 Paterson Plank Road. For more information, go to secaucusnj.gov.
For updates on this story and others, visit www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at [email protected]